Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm ba-a-a-ck

Greetings, all. I evacuated for Hurricane Gustav, but have returned safely. I had no damage, either bodily or to property. The biggest aftermath for me is exhaustion.

I spent three days preparing to evacuate--packed LOTS of stuff this time.

(That's the Katrina Aftereffect: When I evacuated for Hurricane Katrina I expected to return home in two or three days, so took only a few changes of clothing. I didn't anticipate serious flooding, despite the TV warnings...I've been through dozens of hurricanes; there's always exaggeration in the preliminary warnings you hear on TV. Then Katrina came through: the levees broke, New Orleans was devastated, and I couldn't return home for more than three weeks. Although my own home survived Katrina safely, the visions of others' losses stayed with me. For Gustav I was wiser and planned for the possibility of being away for weeks and/or losing my house to wind/flood damage.)

I left on Saturday, August 30, with my daughter and a friend of hers in three vehicles, each vehicle loaded. We didn't go far--to a rural community north of Lake Pontchartrain, about 50 miles from where I live. I have friends there who were willing to house us and our menagerie of pets for the storm. (We had six animals with us--four dogs and two cats.) It's the same place where I stayed during Katrina. It's high ground, no possibility of flooding, although of course it can suffer wind damage. (My friends lost 30 trees from Katrina.)

We settled in and waited, per the usual. The storm came. Lots of high winds, and lots more rain than from Katrina. The high winds lasted for two days and the rains continued on and off for four days. Amazingly, our refuge did not lose electricity, although most around us did. Not only did we have lights and access to TV, we had AIR CONDITIONING (the most important thing to me). We went through the week in comfort, with only anxiety and boredom to plague us.

We returned home on Friday, September 5, to find the house in good shape, with electricity and cable TV working. On setting foot inside my house, I dropped the armload of stuff I was bringing in, sat in my favorite chair in the living room, and burst into tears. I didn't expect it; I guess it was the relief of being safely home. While evacuated I wasn't conscious of feeling extreme anxiety--in such a situation, you have to go from moment to moment and not think about all the awful possibilities--but I guess it was there underneath.

I've spent the last four days doing what has to be done--putting away stuff at home, restocking the fridge, going back to work on Monday, etc.--then collapsing and sleeping a lot. I guess there's some post-traumatic stress stuff going on inside me. It seems odd since I experienced only inconvenience this time (didn't even lose the AIR CONDITIONING), but who can account for the ways of the psyche?

I just hope we don't have to do this again this year. Now Hurricane Ike is down there in the Gulf, but it's heading for Texas/Mexico, and all we'll get is some rain. I don't wish harm on anyone else, but I'm glad it's not heading for us.

And thus ends my tale.